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Wind power supporters and opponents outside the Woods Hole Coast Guard station during a visit by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Photo by Curt Nikisch.
Wind power supporters and opponents outside the Woods Hole Coast Guard station during a visit by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Photo by Curt Nikisch.

Two sides of the great wind power divide

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A decade-long fight over a proposed wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts could be over soon. It's called Cape Wind. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he will make a decision by the end of April. What would be the nation's first offshore wind farm is bigger than a simple "not in my backyard" issue. Like wind development proposals in this region, it has divided communities and even neighbors. Reporter Curt Nickisch met two people who've come down on opposite sides - both for environmental reasons.

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Transcript: Curt Nickisch, April 5, 2010

At 63-years-old, Bill Eddy has old-man-and-the-sea white hair. He's been sailing all his life, including the waters where the 130 wind turbines would go up more than five miles offshore. He knows the wind's power. And he's willing to give up part of the horizon he loves for clean energy.

Eddy: I have a firm, firm belief. We may have to for one generation be willing to sacrifice a very small portion of a coastal sea off the coast of Massachusetts. To launch this new future.

Cape Wind would generate three-quarters of the electricity used by Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Bill says it's time for residents here to share in the sacrifice for the energy that drives modern life.

Eddy: Consider for just a moment the sacrifice that's already being made by the thousands of our fellow American citizens who live where their mountains are being removed for coal. Or what about the thousands of American men and women who are serving overseas to protect the places where the oil is that we import? To be honest with you, the 130 turbines of the wind farm, I'd prefer any one of them to one more marker in Arlington National Cemetery.

Powers: It's not going to make any difference, this one wind farm.

Martha Powers is just as passionate about Cape Wind, but she's against it. She lives by the water, too.

Powers: So this was a summer cottage, my Dad bought it in 1958.

As a kid, Martha spent summers here. Now she's a librarian with graying hair. She keeps binoculars by the back porch for birdwatching.

Powers: This project would tear a big hole in that whole web of life there that could never be repaired. It would tear a hole that big under the ocean, all of the animals that live in the ocean beneath that water, and that fly above that water, it would be horrific. I can almost see it, like a bomb, to me, it feels.

Mainly, Martha's worried about the birds that will be killed by the spinning blades of the wind turbines. Her Christmas card this year was a photo of a chickadee perched on her finger.

Powers: When you feel those little feet on your hand, trusting. It's an amazing experience. So to kill them is just such a horrible thought. That's the hardest thing for me to accept about this project.

A few miles away, Cape Wind supporter Bill Eddy says it would be hard for him to accept the project not going forward.

Eddy: I know, I just know that, in a year or so, I'll be able to go out to the wind farm. The wind in my sails and the winds in the blades of the turbine, that something very old and something very new is bringing about a most wondrous evolution.

Whether that evolution starts off of Cape Cod will be up to someone in Washington. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the nation will move ahead with wind farms off the East Coast. But since people like Bill Eddy and Martha Powers can't agree, Salazar will decide whether Nantucket Sound is the right place to start.

For The Environment Report, I'm Curt Nickisch.

Copyright © 2010. The Regents of the University Of Michigan. Used with permission.

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